Southeast Fort Worth ISD voters to elect new trustee after 6 month-long vacancy
Brian Dixon, Wallace Bridges and Trischelle Strong are vying for the District 4 seat on the Fort Worth ISD school board.
For nearly half a year, southeast Fort Worth ISD has not had a school board member. That means no elected resident to voice community concerns or shape key decisions.
Daphne Brookins represented District 4 for two years until her death in November. Now, three candidates — community organizer Wallace Bridges, child psychiatrist Brian Dixon and correctional officer Trischelle Strong — are vying to succeed Brookins in a special election. This seat, along with District 1 in the Northside, will be crucial as the school board ramps up its search for a new superintendent.
Bridges, 63, is seeking the seat for the second time; he ran in 2021 and lost to Brookins. Dixon, 41, and Strong, 22, are first-time candidates for the seat. Strong did not respond to Fort Worth Report requests to comment. The winner will serve for the remaining three years left of Brookins’ term.
Early voting begins April 25 and ends May 3. Election Day is May 7. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Superintendent search crucial
Dixon and Bridges were blunt when assessing the current state of Fort Worth ISD: Trustees and administrators have their work cut out for them, they said.
The district has room for improvement on several fronts, including student outcomes and simply communicating with the community, Dixon said.
Likewise, Bridges said, the district has not been able to make good on its promise to fix student performance and it has failed at accomplishing even simpler tasks, like communicating to parents and the community.
“It’s a state of disarray,” Bridges said. “The board has to take ownership.”
Picking a new superintendent could make a difference in fixing Fort Worth ISD, the candidates said.
Bridges and Dixon recognize their voice and vote could determine the type of leader the school board hires to replace departing Superintendent Kent Scribner, who has been in the position for seven years.
Appointing a superintendent, the sole employee who reports directly to trustees, is one of the most important decisions a school board can make — and it has long-lasting ramifications. The winner will join a school board in which all but one trustee has never gone through this process.
Dixon wants the next superintendent to be a person who can manage people well and has a record of doing so.
“If you don’t have that, you end up with a lot of people doing whatever they think as best, and that’s not sustainable in the long run,” Dixon said.
He agreed with Mayor Mattie Parker’s take that the district needs a person who is more like a chief executive officer. Dixon is open to a non-traditional superintendent candidate, as well as a turnaround expert who can really hone in on improving student outcomes.
Bridges believes Scribner’s successor must be someone who has turned around an urban, minority-majority school district.
This person also must be able to boost staff morale, he added. Bridges has talked to teachers and other Fort Worth ISD staff who have become disheartened with education after two years of the COVID-19 pandemic and their profession becoming a political football for politicians.
“You’re going to need somebody who can motivate the staff and team. …. That’s something that’s been missing,” Bridges said.
Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates is leading the school board’s superintendent search. The firm expects Fort Worth ISD to have a new superintendent in place around the start of the new school year. Scribner is scheduled to leave his position on Aug. 31.
A new voice
Each candidate will be a new voice on the school board. Each brings his own set of experiences that could influence policy.
If he’s elected, Bridges sees his role as a trustee as having a pulse on his community in District 4. Residents’ voices have not been used when making decisions, he said.
For example, Bridges pointed to Fort Worth ISD’s Saturday school program, which is aimed at recovering learning loss some students experienced when they were stuck at home during the worst days of the pandemic. Administrators forgot that many working families spend Saturdays as a day to catch up on their household chores and spend time with their children.
Nearly 85% of Fort Worth ISD students are economically disadvantaged.
“I don’t think decisions are planned in a way to what’s going on in families and the community,” Bridges said, adding every decision ultimately comes to the students.
As a child psychiatrist, Dixon believes he can be a conduit for expressing issues children deal with on a daily basis. Dixon also sees his skills being handy when it is time for awkward conversations about student discipline or even more lightning rod cultural issues, such as race and what schools should teach. Many of these conversations are missing a key component, Dixon said.
“Everything needs context. If you don’t have context, it won’t make sense,” Dixon said. “We’ve lost a lot of context when it comes to education, so hopefully I can help bring more context to those discussions.”
Dixon leads Bridges in fundraising, according to campaign finance reports. Strong, the third candidate, did not file her April 7 campaign finance report.
Dixon raised $7,350 from Feb. 19 to March 28. Bridges brought in $4,335 during the same period.
Both men have spent similar amounts. Dixon spent $2,197, while Bridges used $1,943.
Dixon and Bridges also have similar amounts still in their savings accounts. Dixon edged out Bridges by almost $62. Dixon has $3,874 in cash on hand, and Bridges has $3,812.
The next campaign finance reports are due April 29, eight days before the May 7 election.